Virginia Tech's recruiting strategy under Frank Beamer has been to make the Hokies "Virginia's Team." Tech focuses on winning the in-state recruiting battle and getting the Commonwealth's best high school players to Blacksburg. By focusing on the talent-rich areas of Eastern Virginia and combining them with hard-working, under-recruiting kids from the state's rural areas, the Hokies have become a team that routinely competes for conference titles and the occasional national one.
Some schools have the advantage of being in states with more high school football talent than the Commonwealth. Others recruit regionally or nationally. But I like Tech's approach when it comes to recruiting. The best kids from Virginia won't always beat the best kids from Florida and Texas, but I think if Tech can keep recruits in-state, it can continue to grow as a program.
Virginia Tech will occasionally dip into highly-recruited areas like South Florida and sign a recruit. Recently, most have come from Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach, Fla. Players like David Clowney and Brandon Flowers played at Atlantic and their success has led to other players from the school like Jayron Hosley signing with the Hokies. Others players like Jason Worilds and Dave Meyer came to Tech from New Jersey.
But for the most part, the Hokies have tried to lure the players closest to them. Their 2010 commitment list has 21 players, 15 of which played their high school or prep ball in Virginia.
Players in places like Florida, Texas and Ohio have a lot of choices of where to play college football and it's impossible for one school to get the best players from those states. But I think there's enough good players in Virginia that if the Hokies can sign the state's best players they can compete for a national championship.
Tech has commitments from four of the state's Top 10 players according to ESPN.com. However, only one of the Top 5 is committed to the Hokies. If Tech can start locking in the best of the best, it might be able to make the leap from being a good, stable program to being an elite one.
There's another advantage to recruiting in-state that's hard to quantify. Players from Virginia who grew up watching the Hokies feel more connected to the program and are perhaps willing to work harder once in the program. Some of them may be more motivated to make Virginia Tech a winner.
For example, look at Oklahoma. Bob Stoops won a national championship in 2000 with a roster filled with players from the previous era. A lot of them were from Oklahoma and grew up rooting for the Sooners. They wanted to win a national title for their state and for their school. Stoops filled in the holes with a quarterback from a junior college in Utah and a linebacker from a junior college in Florida and made them champions.
However, Stoops focused his recruiting on Texas and competing with the schools in that state. The best players from Oklahoma started going elsewhere and while Stoops has brought in some of the best recruiting classes in the nation since he's been at Oklahoma he hasn't brought home a second national title.
I think the reason is his recruiting strategy. Stoops is getting great talent into Oklahoma and developing it, but he's getting guys from Texas who feel no real connection to the school or state. These guys want to prepare themselves for the NFL more than win national titles. And that's why Stoops has had great teams in recent years but hasn't been able to win the big game.
That's why I like Virginia Tech's recruiting strategy. While it's nice to have great talent on your roster, it's better to have great talent that's motivated to win for their school. Tech's challenge is to start bringing in the cream of Virginia's crop and that's something that will be more difficult in the coming years with Mike London at UVa. But if the Hokies can keep recruiting in Virginia at the same pace they have been, they may make the jump that Tech fans have been waiting 10 years for.